CARROLLWOOD — Are you looking for something different to do on Valentine's Day with your sweetheart? If you're into classic rock 'n' roll, the Carrollwood Cultural Center has just the thing. The Impacs will perform "A Valentine's Day Sock Hop" at 8 p.m. Friday.
After 53 years in the music business, the Impacs still expect to rock the crowd's socks off. "It will be one night of nonstop old-time rock 'n' roll designed especially for grownups," said Jay Angello, an original Impacs' member and lead guitarist. He jokingly added, "no one is admitted under 40, unless they're accompanied by an adult."
The term "sock hop" came out of informal dances sponsored at American high schools, back when kids wore hard-sole shoes that they were required to remove to protect the varnished floor of the gymnasium. These hops were a cultural phenomenon of early rock 'n' roll. They occurred during the days of drive-ins, poodle skirts and penny loafers.
"On a day where romance is celebrated we're real excited to have a throwback event, a throwback to a sock hop that's a little different way to celebrate the day than dinner, candy and flowers," said Adrienne Hutelmeyer, marketing and community relations director for the Carrollwood Cultural Center. "We've never had a Valentine's Day event here, and we've never had a sock hop, so it's kind of like the stars aligned."
On Valentine's Day, Bobby Barnes, an original drummer, said the music could rev up the romance. "You can be romantic and play Johnny B. Goode, and also get (In the ) Still of the Night old slow ballad … Mix comedy, romance, and a 4/4 drum beat, that never fails."
Starting in the 1960s the Impacs made such an impression that they were tagged to travel with Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars. They also performed with greats such as Roy Orbison, the Everly Brothers, Chuck Berry, and more than 100 other top 10 recording artists of the era. They cut records with national labels such as Cameo/Parkway and King.
And now the Impacs, from St. Petersburg, continue to perform, attracting huge crowds and loyal fans.
Angello said he has done it so long because "it's a lot of fun." He also recalls Clark telling him when he was on Caravan of Stars: "No matter how old you get, you'll always have a red nose in your pocket, and you'll always be ready to pull it out and put it on."
Now that they're at the age where they can retire, Angello is having more fun than ever working.
"It's a lot more fun doing it when you want to do it than when you have to do it," he said.
Barnes said they still get so much energy from the crowd that they often rock on for three hours. "It's not your daddy's sock hop," he said. "It's a dance-oriented music."
Instead of singing along with CDs like some new entertainers, or singing note for note the old-fashioned way, they make their own melodies, play their own music, and get the crowd to sing along.
"We don't play for ourselves, we play for the people," Barnes said.
Angello added: "It's easy to be a musician. It's easy to take an instrument and get faster and better at playing it. It takes a special group of people not just to play an instrument, but to entertain."
The give and take with the crowd makes every show special. "When we walk on stage we don't have a clue what we're going to do," Angello said. "It's kind of like fly-fishing. You throw different baits out there to see how the audience is going to respond."
He added: "We don't leave until everyone knows each other, everyone is interacting with each other and just having a good time."